Golly, folks, I hate to rain on the fun parade, but I have known several guys (and one gal) who might (or might not) have been real honest to gosh spies. A real spy never carries a gun of any kind. There is too much risk of being detected, and carrying a gun is a sure sign of being up to no good. Further, since in almost any country it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon, the gun alone would be reason for arrest.
If stopped and questioned, the spy depends on his cover ID, which would almost never be something that involves carrying a gun. If arrest is imminent, a gun can only delay the inevitable and would be better used on oneself, but a suicide tablet is more reliable.
Of course, I am talking about espionage, not commando type operations, or some such. Those guys generally carry whatever they are issued; for units like Delta force, Special Ops, etc., it is usually the same weapons as the regular army, though some variation is usually allowed.
Why'd you have to go and do that... Now you've wrecked it for everyone who's ever had a clearance and used the line: "I could tell you--but then I'd have to kill you!"
I used to work at a company that required a clearance. At one point I was looking at being transferred overseas. The way it worked, I would have been working for a beltway bandit contracted to one of the three-letter agencies. I told my family of the possibility during one of our visits to my folks and everyone took it pretty well. I noticed my mother seemed a little troubled.
Later that evening she got me alone and said--"Don't let the government make you do anything you don't want to!" "Like what mom?" "You know, like kill someone!"
It was at that point that I realized that my folks had absolutely no idea what I did (electronics/computer/data analysis stuff). I guess security would have been proud. They DID know that I liked guns a lot and I guess they figured maybe my job and the guns were connected--dunno.
I can just see it now. My new boss overseas--"Ok, John, we're having a little trouble with this algorithm. If you can get it working by tomorrow then maybe we'll let you KILL one of the locals!"
You are right--for the most part spies are very un-JamesBond-like. Now SUPERSPIES are another story--don't you watch movies???????
I once had an interesting discussion with a gentleman who may (or may not) have been an American spy in Rumania several years before the "fall". We discussed a TV show in which a superspy entered Rumania by floating down the Danube in an inflatable rubber suit(!) "into the heart of Bucharest." My friend thought this was interesting, since Bucharest is around 80km from the river. Apparently, the show's writer got it confused with Budapest.
He laughed at the idea of a balding, middle aged, somewhat overweight man floating down the river, and told me that the last time he had been in Rumania, he had flown in on an Aeroflot flight from Moscow. His cover was as an employee of the Ministry of Agriculture, back from studying Soviet collective farms. Official orders, ID, etc. all in perfect order. The language was no problem as he is a native Rumanian (did you think we hired Americans?). He also laughed at the idea of carrying a gun and said he had no knowledge of weapons or the martial arts.
He was a little concerned about customs, so he told the customs guards that he had brought along a little something for good servants of the state. He told them to do their duty, open his suitcase, and "confiscate" some illegal stuff, which happened to be two bottles of the very best Russian vodka. Sure enough, they found the "contraband", took it (in the interests of the state, of course) had a good laugh and, to his relief, did not find the high speed radio transmitter in the bottom of the suitcase.
Or at least that is what might (or might not) have happened.
It`s a lot more fun to take this thread as more of a `60s *movie spy* thing. In that light I`d go with a Lightweight Commander (do I see a trend here?) in .38 Super (more "exotic",more rounds and great penetration). Backup would be a S&W Centenial. SHTF backup would be a 12ga. 870 with the barrel cut down to the end of the magazine and a slightly shortened stock. A Pre-64 Model 70 in ..30-06 with a Leupold 6X scope would provide long range ability. A fine quality Italian stilleto would round out the weapons. A cool car is just as important as weapons (or more so) for the movie spy. Being an American,the only choice is a tuxedo black `63 fuelie split window Vette with knockoff wheels. Marcus
For sniping: HK G3 with 6x scope.
For Nato OPS: FAL
For US work: AR18.
For Jungle Missions: M14
For portable firepower: Customized Bren gun.
For Commando work: M1 Thompson or Sterling.
For combloc work: AK47
SD: Mauser 1896 w/20 rd detachable magazine in 9mm.
General: Colt .38, Chromeplated, w/ivory grips.
Hideout; HK model 4 or Walther PPK.
For realistic spy work: Bare hands, or a knife or three, at most, a small auto such as a Mauser HsC or Detective Special.
For more commando-oriented undercover work....
Close range: The aforementioned pair, or a Browning HiPower due to availability. For setting people on fire across the room and terrifying the populace, a 3" .357 S&W with hot loads. Either that, or a S&W M1917 in .45 ACP or M1909 (same thing in .45 Colt).
Slightly longer range: Double barrel 12ga, since it can pass for a bird gun.
For more open warfare, an Uzi folding stock for the briefcase, with many spare mags..... Post 1964, an MP5.
Just howinhell is the "superspy" (or anyone else) supposed to get hold of all that exotic hardware and then manage to lug it around? African gun bearers, maybe, traipsing through downtown Moscow?
Probably the Russian spy who did the most damage to this country was Julius Rosenberg. AFAIK, he never owned or used a gun of any kind.
Now if I wanted to be well armed yet totally inconspicuous, I would have my favorite 40mm twin barrel Bofors in a shoulder holster, with a 16 inch naval rifle for backup, plus eight or ten atomic hand grenades, a dozen nuclear smart bombs, and seven squadrons of F-16's. And that is just on the right side of my belt. The stuff on the left is classified.
As I said, real spies just don't carry guns. In the unlikely event that the spy does need a weapon, his "controller", who works out of the embassy, will provide one. The embassy has arms brought into the host country in the diplomatic "pouch" (which can be a whole planeload), the same way the embassy guards get their weapons, and the same way computers and communications gear are brought in.
I think everyone is confusing a spy, who is after information, with saboteurs or some kind of underground army, whose aim is sabotage and disruption. The two are not the same. The folks who gave atomic secrets to Russia were spies. The guys who took out the WTC were attackers, not spies, and their weapons were box cutters.
Please reread my first post....... I said for realistic spy work, bare hands, or a few knives. For more OSS/commando type stuff, the others. I'm quite familiar with how little real spies use weaponry... aside from the guys in Afghanistan who were on the Agency's paramilitary side.
Please note Ed Lovette (real CIA officer) used a .38 Detective Special apparently when he did need a weapon overseas.
You cheapskate second-stringers! GIMME THE GYROJET! It will shoot anywhere! I can exterminate vermin from the depths of the sea to outer space! I can pick 'em off at 6 inches or 6 miles! Knock down the missile before it destroys the Free World then shoot the deadly spider off the Lady In Distress!!!
My backup would be the Dardick autopistol. The minions of the Evil Bad Guy would look right past it, not realizing it was a real gun.
With that, my winning smile, plus my swave, deboner manners, I'll save all the babes held in thrall of the Evil Bad Guy!
Everything's a matter of defining terms. Others have said it above - - Deep cover spy (probably no gun a-tall,) "Black Ops" raiding party (whatever the govt wanted to supply,) sabotoge specialist (ditto.)
I've known two men who "operated" in Europe in different eras. One was a WW-II OSS type who felt he had barely enough French to get along, who parachuted into occupied France. He had a Colt .32 auto and one spare magazine adhesive-taped to one thigh. He had no illusions about holding off a squad of Germans - - This one was for removing a resistance leader suspected of having sold out . . . .
The other man was a "Cold Warrior," who carried an assortment of Beretta .25s, one of which he dropped down a sewer. He was once (ONLY once) issued a Browning High Power at the US Embassy. When he returned it, unfired, his contact was on leave, and the main problem was finding someone willing to accept the pistol.
A tactical white dinner jacket, a gold Dunhill lighter, a gold case of custom Nat Sherman cigarettes, some various gadgets with purposes I wouldn't expect to ever use but will amazingly find a use for, a Smith & Wesson Chief's Special, and then whatever Sterling SMG/AK47/Solar-powered death ray the first henchman I bump off happens to be carrying.